A Chat With November’s Profile, Mark Desrochers, co-founder/marketing director, Classic Designs by Matthew Burak (Text & Audio)
Catalog Success: Where’s your company headquartered?
Mark Desrochers: St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
CS: When was the company established? Was this also the same time it began mailing catalogs?
MD: We don’t look back too much, so we’re actually pretty weak at recalling some of these dates. Matt [Burak] was a furniture maker, and he had a long and successful run as a furniture maker. We incubated this table leg business for a few years inside of his furniture business. We split it out in December of 1999. It’s more realistic to say the idea was … we wrote the business plan in ’95. December of ’99 was when we incorporated the business.
CS: Were catalogs part of the business right away?
MD: Yeah, it was a trifold brochure with exactly six [table] legs in it.
CS: What’s the primary merchandise offered in the catalog?
MD: With the origins of the furniture company in period, in reproduction Colonial furniture, our first designs, and our first successes, were in period-style table legs: Queen Anne, William and Mary. Those were designs that we had a demand for in our furniture business and those were the designs that we went to market with initially. And they were well received. There was no place in the country that one could purchase a ready-made, historically accurate, period-style furniture leg … wooden table leg. It just didn’t exist. And that’s what people responded to.
It was really one of those situations where Matt had a need in his furniture business, and he identified that need and filled that need. We presented a solution to furniture makers like Matt, a solution to that need. People grabbed right hold of it; they liked it. It’s a long process to turn a piece of tree wood into a table leg if you’re only doing three or four at a time. And the journey’s kind of fraught with inefficiency and peril, but once you batch ’em up and run ’em in fairly large quantities, it goes a lot better. It’s much more efficient.